Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Northern Lights

No, I’ve never seen them in person. Well. I might have seen a tiny bit of some once, but I’m not sure.

I’ve been watching all the great Northern Light images popping up on Facebook. Many are being shot in northern Michigan, often very near where I used to live a lifetime ago. Sometimes I can tell exactly where the photographer was standing because I’ve stood there myself.

Creating pollution, light and otherwise while waiting for the Northern Lights.

Now days I live far away from the northern reaches of the Upper Peninsulia which would be my first choice of viewing locations. It’s just not practical to jump in the car when conditions are right and drive ten hours on the off chance the dancing lights appear.

It was a crazy night.

But I’m sure, sooner or later, I’ll be in the right place at the right time. In fact I was, kind of, a couple years ago.

I never saw this fist cloud that night, only when I reviewed images later.


These are photos from 2019 when we were in the UP in the fall and northern lights were predicted. Not only predicted among local northern light buffs, but also on national news networks. Everyone knew there should be lights that night.

Is there some green light over there?

Which is why we found ourselves on a beach looking out at Lake Superior along with a few thousand of our closest friends, all of whom were enjoying bonfires producing smoke obscuring the sky.

Bad composition, but the Milky Way is there.

Yep. That’s the closest I ever got to seeing the Northern Lights.

They’re out there somewhere. I never did figure out what that red spot was in the water.

It was a crazy night, and though I was facinated by the others on the beach, mostly Michigan Tech students, we couldn’t see much of anything out over the water. I didn’t even look at these images when we finally made it home from our adventures. We’d seen so many other wonderful things that trip I never thought about these shots at all.

But I have to say…maybe, just maybe I did see some Northern Lights that night. In spite of myself.

There were people and bonfires as far down the beach as we could see. In both directions.

Note: These aren’t great images, but to see them at all you’ll probably need to be in a dark room and looking at something larger than your phone.


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Reigning in the tomato princess

Katie here.

So, you saw mama’s Wordless Wednesday post yesterday with the cherry tomatoes? Yea. I did too. But I bet you didn’t know how much I love tomatoes. I watched daddy plant a bunch of tomatos in my back yard last spring.

Yum.

Yep. I know exactly where that garden is and I check it out daily. Several times a day if I can get away with it. Daddy says he put the fence up around it to keep out critters like deer and raccoons and rabbits and groundhogs and stuff.

But I know the truth. Daddy put that fence up cause of me!

You can’t see me if I hide behind this plant. Right?

I like to pick my own ripe tomatoe right off the vine. Every day I pull mama or daddy around the back side of our house when I’m supposed to be looking for a good spot to do my business. They used to be fooled, thinking I just wanted to pee in a new part of the yard.

But they’re not fooled any more. (Sometimes they are smarter than I calculated.)

They’re hoarding all the good stuff!

Mama looked up whether tomatoes were good for doggies and she found out that green ones were very bad and red ones were OK in moderation.

Moderation? I’m a sheltie. I don’t do anything in moderation!

I think daddy needs my help in the garden, mama!

Anyway, they say I can’t have any tomatoes because I’m having trouble with my tummy and my poo. I told them they are way too interested in my poo. They should get another hobby if you ask me.

Shhhhh…don’t tell them.

So I’m a sad puppy. I’m stuck here eating canned pumpkin and boiled chicken and rice and the Royal Canin kibble. I like all that stuff a whole lot (and my folks are relieved I’ve got my appitite back) but none of it is the same as a fresh cherry tomato picked right off the vine by yours truly.

Do any of you other doggies out there love tomatoes like me? Mama says I’m a weird little girl.

I’ll take that as a compliment.

Giving mama the stink eye cause she said “NO” when I tried to eat one!


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Just too much

This morning when Katie-girl woke me at 4 a.m. to go outside I turned on the news to get the latest on hurricane Ida. I have a few friends in the path of the storm.

I watched a few minutes of roofs being torn off buildings and downed trees, utility poles snapped in half, blinding rain. My heart broke. Then the anchor turned to Afghanistan and the thirteen soldiers whose families are beginning their new normal and my heart broke again. And after that were images of the fires in the west. And then Corona virus hospitalization numbers.

After our storm last night.

I turned the television off.

Katie and I went back to bed. She fell asleep instantly, not burdened by worry. I lay there for awhile trying not to get sucked into despair.

But this morning, as I was fixing Katie’s breakfast (boiled chicken, white rice, Royal Canin kibble, green beans and pumpkin) I noted that the air felt fresher, the temperatures cooler than we’ve had in a very long time.

As she ate I went out to fill the birdfeeders.

Early morning of a fresh new day.

A little chickadee flitted around my head, waiting for his favorite feeder to be rehung. A hummingbird checked us both out, reminding me I needed to put fresh sugar water out too.

There was cool morning dew on the roses.

Ripe tomatoes were ready to be picked in the garden.

The sun was coming up and a kingfisher clattered through a beam of light, headed for the pond.

Yes, there are terrible, terrible things going on here at home and across the world. Yes today is a sad day, yesterday was a sad day, all of last week was terrible for so many people. Tomorrow might not be better.

But I am so lucky that when I take the time to look there is usually something good to find, even in the midst of just too much.

Watcha doing, mama?

And that makes me smile.


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Let’s celebrate!

Katie here. HEY! Did you know it’s NATIONAL DOG DAY? It’s been on the news and everything!

Hey! It’s another opportunity to celebrate ME!

Honestly, here at my house every day is National Dog Day, but don’t tell anyone how spoiled I am. Oh. You’re fully aware of that? ALL of you are fully aware? Hmmmm….I think mama discloses too much information. A review of the nondisclosure clause in her contract with me might be in order.

But I digress.

This is my garden. Mama should make a boquet to decorate the house in celebration, don’t you think?

So as soon as I woke mama up this morning I told her we needed to do something special to celebrate. But so far, nothing.

OK, maybe she wasn’t in the planning mode at 3:30 in the morning when we went outside to explore the yard, umm, pee. But surely when she was making my breakfast #1 she should have been thinking about what we could do that was fun.

Or when she made my breakfast #2 a couple hours later.

I’m waiting, mother.

But no. Mama says she’s going to book us for a camping trip but I haven’t heard anything about where or when yet. She keeps saying it’s too hot for shelties to camp.

One of my favorite things to do is sleep in my tent.

She might have a point about that. I’m thinking early November would be the perfect time to sleep out in a tent. Don’t you agree?

I thought so. Mama is a wuss. She even bought an electric blanket to use when we camp later in the season. I think she should book that November campsite right away! Oh- you say the campgrounds up here aren’t open in November? Well, that’s just silly.

I’m sure if mama was motivated to make me happy she’d find somewhere to camp. I’ll add it to her ‘to-do’ list.

You weren’t doing anything anyway, right mama?

Anyway, if all you doggies out there haven’t gotten anything for National Dog Day yet either, we should band up and form a doggie union. Sometimes the only way to make change is to make some noise.

And you all know Sheltie’s can make some noise!

I usually get what I want when I really put my all into asking.

I hope you all have a wonderful National Dog Day! Even if you’re not lucky enough to be a dog.

Signing off,

Your Union Organizer,

Katie-girl.

I’m not manipulative. I’m just really super cute.


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More practice

I got a couple of tips (thanks DailyMusing!) about how to maneuver through WordPress’ blockhead editing system, particularly with images.

So here goes….I should be able to delete a photo. Guess I should insert a photo first:

Then I’ll see if I can remove it….one moment please…

OH!!!!! That worked!

But wait….now there’s nothing there, and you can’t see the image…because…I REMOVED IT! 🙂 🙂 🙂

So here it is again…

It’s just a barn taken on my trip home from the night sky camping trip I took a week or more ago. In fact I have a few other barn images from that drive home. It was prime farm country, after all.

She gave me a tip on how to do a gallery too, let’s see if I can do that:

Well, THAT was interesting! I don’t know if there’s a way to decide what goes where, but at least it’s a gallery!

The trick now will be for me to remember what I did.

Always something.

Edit: I just figured out you can click on any of the pictures in the gallery and see them bigger. They’re really better bigger.


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Almost silent Sunday morning

Katie and I are sitting on the deck. I’m indulging her, letting her nap in a puddle of sun before the day gets so hot neither of us can sit out here.

I think the sun makes her old joints feel better.

I’ve filled the bird feeders and now listen intently as the sound of wings begins to overshadow the sound of a far away lawn mower.

The birds are used to us sitting out here, and they take the calculated risk of coming in for a bit of seed, even though it’s only a few feet from the dog and me.

My two nuthatches are the first to arrive. I hear their soft whining before I find them high up in the trees. Each ventures, headfirst, down a trunk, scurrying in a race to reach the seed first.

Under the deck a chipmunk causes a ruckus running into the roof gutter drain. I guess he’s not as brave as the little birds.

The chickadees have shown up, a whole flock of them this year. As youngsters they were shy, but now they’re old hands at stealing a seed and whirring up into the tree to eat it. There are so many I can’t keep track.

A cardinal has risked landing on the flat feeder, several feet away. If we sit still he will sit there and eat until something bothers him. He has the flat feeder all to himself for the moment, just the way he likes it.

The titmouse is late this morning. Usually she’s the first to come in when they hear the seed can being opened. She flies so fast, through the limbs of the honeysuckle to grab her share.

And there’s a little downy woodpecker, hanging upside down on the tube feeder. I haven’t seen him in awhile, it’s nice to see him here this morning.

Katie gets anxious, wanting a treat for herself, but I can’t leave yet — the hairy woodpecker has arrived. And now the hummingbirds, the male and female ruby throated, are chasing each other among the pink leaves of the beach tree.

But she’s barking now. A princess isn’t required to be patient.

So we go in and let the birds have their breakfast buffet in peace.


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What made you smile this week?

As most of you know, Trent hosts a weekly blog that gathers posts from all sorts of people who are talking about smiling. These days we can all use a smile or two or ten.

Flowers always make me smile.

I don’t always get a smiley post done every week, but I sure appreciate the work he does to remind us all to look for smiles even when we don’t feel like it.

There’s been lots of bad news lately, but I’ve still had plenty to smile about. For example, a neighbor stopped by with his new puppy and we did a little photo shoot, mostly with his camera.

Meet Oliver, the neighbor’s new puppy!

I got this image of little Oliver on my camera. He’s only about 3 months old, but he’s as big as Katie and strong like a bull. In this shot he reminds me a bit of Winston Churchill. I think it’s the stick he’s chewing like a cigar, and his eyes.

But mostly, this week, it’s Katie-girl that makes me smile.

Mama! There’s yogurt on my nose, you can’t post this!

We made it out to her park one evening, though most days it’s just too hot. Even that day she sat under the picnic table and we didn’t even attempt to walk around the pond.

It’s hot out here, mama!

Tonight we went out back and smelled the roses, just one more thing to smile about.

If this doesn’t make you all smile, I don’t know what will!

I hope you all had plenty of things to smile about this week, and that next week is even better for us all!

These smell good mama! I hope everyone out there can smell them too!


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Sky high

Let’s see. The last I knew you were all looking at barns because barns are so much easier to photograph than stars. I don’t suppose I can ply you with more of them?

Look! It’s a barn! (From my drive home on Friday.)

No? I understand–you’re wondering how I could have been at a dark sky park for three days and three nights and not produce something worthy of all that time.

Packing up my campsite Friday.

All three evenings we had nice sunsets, and I hoped that the skies might be clear enough to see some stars. But clouds rolled in after the sun went down and we had two nights of torrential rain and wind.

This little guy had to be presuaded not to hitch a ride home with me.

Definitely no star shooting those nights! Though I did see a couple meteorites each night before the weather turned really wicked.

Wednesday night’s sunset.

But I really wanted to spend a few hours on a warm summer night watching the sky, and behind those clouds I just knew there were hundreds of meteorites flying. It was frustrating.

Thursday night’s sunset.

Finally it was Thursday night, my last night at the park. Weather predictions were that Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights would be clear. But there wasn’t a campsite or a hotel room to be had over the weekend, so all my chips were on the table for Thursday night.

The stars from the campground beach about 10:30 p.m.

I walked down to the beach after dark to see if there were stars or clouds. Turned out there was a bit of both. I took a few pictures, but it wasn’t really dark, so I decided to drive to the dark sky park one last time.

And I’m so glad I did.

No that’s not a meteorite. It’s just a plane.

I arrived shortly before 11:00 p.m. and the parking lot was very full. You could feel the excitement, all those cars, headlights off, dark shadows of people scurying around with tripods and red headlamps.

Light from town interferes with the Milky Way.

I finally found a block of three empty parking spots and I quickly pulled into the middle one. Just as I was turning in I realized there was a person in a chair in the first empty spot. That shook me as I could have run right over them!

So many stars.

I got out of the car, intent on apologizing for almost mowing him or her down when I heard snoring. There was a very large man in a reclining beach chair full on asleep. I made a lot of noise, not intentionally, getting my gear out of the car and he never woke up.

The other end of the Milky Way.

I decided there were too many noisy people, including what appeared to be a whole group of school kids at the other end of the parking lot. I was already seeing metorites overhead, so I headed back into the dunes to see what I could see.

Most of the Milky Way was directly overhead.

Lots of people out there too, red headlights bobbing around, but the people were quiet, more respectful of the wonderful show going on overhead.

As the sky got darker and darker the number of meteorites bursting overhead increased. I was standing at an intersection of two paths and several people stopped by to chat about what a wonderful night it was.

There were a few clouds but they just added to the interest.

One young man in particular asked me right away what appeture I was using, and we ended up in a long conversation about lenses and iso speeds. He had a camera in the car, shooting film. We debated if it would work, and he went to get it.

Turns out it was color, with a speed of 200 (I can’t remember how we phrased that back in the film days) but he did have a really low f-stop. So I set my camera for 200 iso and shot 20 seconds to see what he might get…which ended up being a big, totally black rectangle.

It was such a beautiful night.

So he took one picture anyway, just for fun, but didn’t waste the rest of his roll of film. Then we talked about him going to the University of Michigan, and me having done that many years ago, and his road trip to NYC and my roadtrip to Baltimore, and his granparents (who aren’t much older than me), and photography composition, and today’s real estate values skyrocketing, and my dad’s truck crash, and his planned kayak trip the next morning. Then he headed back to his campsite, and I stayed out there and shot the sky for another hour at least.

Just after 1 a.m. the sky lit up with metorites. And I was lucky (and it’s all pure luck) that one appeared to dance right through the frame of one of my shots. I squealed as I am want to do in situations like this, then impatiently waited for the 15 seconds to elapse, and then the long wait for the noise reduction to work itself out before I could check to see if what I thought had happened had.

I still can’t believe I got this curly que meteorite!

And yes it did! HOW COOL IS THAT?

I could have stayed out there staring at the sky all night. But by 1:45 I thought I had captured all the angles of the few trees out there. And I had that drive home in the morning. So I started walking back to the parking lot. But then there’d be something else that was pretty so I’d have to stop.

There were lots of other people still out there, too, though some were also packing it up for the night.

This is what it looks like when a whole group of people with flashlights and headlamps walks through your 15 second exposure.

I’m sure there were several dozen back in the dunes still gazing up at the sky when I finally left, I hope they weren’t asleep like the three young ladies I found on the grassy berm in front of my car. I woke them up when I used the remote to unlock the back and my headlights turned on. I hadn’t seen them there asleep on a big blanket. At least they weren’t snoring.

It was such a wonderful night I’m having trouble deciding which images to show you. There was still quite a bit of light coming from town, but I guess that just adds to the effect.

I don’t know what planet that is on the left, but it was soooo bright!

I wish you all could have been standing right there with me. It’s really kind of hard to express how awe inspiring it is to be under those stars hanging so bright in the sky with metorites flitting through them which evoked oohs and ahs from people all over the park. It was better than the 4th of July fireworks.

I sweated through three days of heat and humidity and held my tent to the ground by sheer determination in two monsoons in a campground with no bathrooms for that one perfect night, and every bit of all that discomfort disappeared as soon as I was in the dark on the warm sand looking up on a clear night.

Hard to describe.

I heartily recommend this kind of experience for anything that ails you. And it’s OK if you bring your beach chair.

Just don’t snore.

PS: I recommend you look at the night images on something bigger than your phone, and probably turn up the brightness of your screen.


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Reaching for a smile

I took this photo last month on my way to meet my college roommate for a couple hours of peaceful kayaking at Kensington Metro Park.

The light caught my eye.

For whatever reason I never looked at it once I downloaded all the images from that day. I guess I was focused more on our time together and the water.

But I turned around to get this image, early that Sunday morning, and I think it deserves some time in the spotlight, because it definitely made me smile that day (I think I may have squealed. Out loud.) and again today after I found it in my archives.

This week I’m feeling some anxiety, so I was having trouble finding a smile. I don’t think it’s wrong to reach back a little when grasping for smiles, do you? We’re all lucky if we have those memories to grab when we need them.

I hope you have found your smile (or maybe even multiple smiles!) this week. Thank you, Trent, for reminding us to keep looking for them!


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Midsummer morning

I feel as if summer is sliding away from me, days turning into minutes, weeks into moments. Yet it’s only the beginning of August, there’s plenty of summer left, especially for a retiree. Right? Being retired is enough to make me smile, but my walk on a midsummer’s morning made me absolutely grin.

The dreaded first sighting of goldenrod.

I was out at my favorite park this past Thursday, while it was still July, while I could still consider it mid-summer, and yet I felt fall encroaching.

Beautiful, but I’m not ready for leaves turning yet.

I went with my biggest lens, the better to see birds in their natural space versus standing on my outstretched palm.

But of course I did have a few birds in my hand. Can’t not do that.

But what I found instead was a whole forest filled with youngsters. And I don’t mean the busses of preschoolers that arrived as I was leaving. Thank goodness.

I don’t know what this is, but it was pretty.

I have so much to show you from my walk in the woods, I don’t know if I should break it up into two posts, or if you’ll have the patience to read one long post.

Joe Pye is beginning to bloom.

I don’t even know if I have the patience to write one long post.

The grasses are maturing.

You can always scroll through and just look at the pictures. I have a feeling the words will be minimal anyway.

Wild grapes are beginning to pink.

I got to the nature center early in the morning, but on the drive through the park I noticed my favorite willow tree island had a beautiful swan. So after I parked I walked back along the bikepath to capture her as she preened.

Was she using the water as her mirror?

Notice the grey pile of fluff off to the right? That is her baby, or maybe more than one, I couldn’t really tell. Her partner is swimming behind the island, couldn’t see him well either.

Her little one (or more) are well hidden in the shade.

But she (I’ve decided it’s a she, I really don’t know) sure was taking her time getting beautiful that morning.

Looking stunning that morning.

Then I walked back to the parking lot at the nature center to get the rest of my gear, and found this exhausted and hungry mama, right beside the bike rack.

Eating at the parking lot salad bar.

With my long lens I was able to get quite close without interrupting her breakfast.

And beside her, on the other side of the bike rack, were the normal crane parking lot greeters, getting spruced up for their shift of collecting the lot fee from everyone arriving to enjoy the trails.

Hurry up Henry, we’re going to be late for work!

Lucky for me I got there before they clocked in.

So I headed into the woods…

The bridge to the woods.

…and met this guy right away. He already had breakfast so I didn’t offer him anything more.

You’re not going INTO THE WOODS, are you?!

It was right about then that I noticed a sense of fall seeping into air. I shook it off and ventured further into the dark cool green, and interrupted two moms and their little ones having some breakfast of their own.

Family brunch interrupted.

I stood there a long time watching them watching me.

Mama and her mini-me.

This little one was intensly curious about me.

Should I run or should I stay?

And then I heard a titmouse, just over my right shoulder, angrly asking why I wasn’t providing a snack. So I handed off a peanut and moved on.

Hey Lady! Fork over the peanut! I know you have one!!

I only saw one other person my entire walk in the woods, and that was another photographer.

I see something right over there…

As soon as he got down from the bench and moved on this mama came out of the brush.

Is he gone yet?

I took a different trail and moved deeper into the woods. The long lens wasn’t really the right choice with so little light. But I didn’t want to stop to change it because you just never know what you’ll see.

Oops, thought it was another deer!

Or how far away it might be.

Way over there on that ridge is another exhausted mama, chewing her cud and watching me.

But the mosquitos were beginning to follow me. I pictured myself running out of the woods with a swarm of bugs trailing me, sort of like a Bernstein Bear cartoon. I moved faster.

After clambering over a downed tree that crossed the trail I was shooting an image of a tree damaged in the recent storms where the fresh wood had a similar color to deer, confusing me for a moment…

Kind of the same color as the deer roaming these woods.

…when out of the corner of my eye I saw more of that reddish brown.

Another mama and her baby hoping to have an undisturbed meal.

These two didn’t seem to realize I was there. Until mama did.

Lady, you need to move along now.

The baby didn’t seem too bothered by me at all, but I went on down the trail so they could enjoy mama/baby time alone. Plus I was beginning to get hungry myself, it had been a long time since my own breakfast, and I was still deep in the woods with a long walk back.

See you later, lady!

I tried not to stop anymore as I booked it out of the deep woods. Except when I saw something interesting. Or fun. Or both.

This says late summer to me for sure.

But mostly I was trying to get back into the open where the breeze would keep the bugs from swarming around my head. Yes, I had applied bug spray before I left the car, but not on my hands, because I knew I’d be feeding birds. I guess that made me fair game for the mosquitos.

Bet you didn’t know crocodiles lived in the woods!

Back out in the open I had a nuthatch and a chickadee makeing big noises about getting a treat, but they wouldn’t come down to my hand. I finally figured out that maybe they were this year’s young, and not quite confident about the whole process of coming in for a snack.

Tell me how this works again, lady?

But eventually they both came down, after doing a fly over or two to check me out.

This peanut is almost as big as me!

The sky was getting dark and I figured it would soon rain, so I headed back to the car. Climbing the stairs to the parking lot I could hear people, cars and busses.

Change of shift for the swallows.

I was glad I’d gotten my walk in the woods finished before the masses arrived. Time to head back home to the princess who would just be getting up from her morning nap.

Earlier in the morning there were deer and cranes. Now bikes rest while their people explore.

It was a good midsummer day all around.